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Always Fresh, Never From Concentrate

Flip the Script….will be back soon (I know, everyone’s favorite), but I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have not posted a book review for awhile, so here goes. Forget V8 and wave Ocean Spray goodbye, because today’s blog post is all about Alphabetter Juice by Roy Blount Jr.

Cover photo from Amazon.com

It’s not a cookbook or a guide to cleanses; rather, Alphabetter Juice is the sequel to a book by the same author which I haven’t read yet. I saw it on the shelf at Dollar Tree and it looked interesting, so I got it, read it, and sent it off to someone in California via PaperBackSwap. I can’t say it was the most thrilling read, but if you’re into words, etymology, and tangents, this one is for you.

Blount breaks down the chapters by alphabet letter, selecting five or ten words from each letter and writing a short entry about their etymology and the curiosity of their existences. A lot of it has to deal with the way the words sound when the come out of the human mouth. For example, when we say the letter “o”, our mouths form the same shape, and the unpleasant hardness of the “nk” sound leads to words like yank, spank, wank, and shank, all of which have connotations of something taboo. I’d be interested to hear what a vocalist or a dialect coach had to say about some of these examples.

Probably the weakest part of the book is the author’s tendency towards long, rambling stories that, after a certain point, are utterly uninteresting. The best entries are the ones which are succinct and to the point. At a certain point, I felt like I was glossing over a lot of the stories, looking for some interesting key words and going off of those.

I did learn a few interesting things from Blount’s book. For example:

  • Beans – They are only mentioned twice in all of Shakespeare’s writings, leading the author to believe he wasn’t fond of this vegetable.
  • Elephant – The term “white elephant” may have come from the King of Siam, who reportedly would gift a rare white elephant to someone he didn’t like. Anyone who would turn down a gift like that from such an illustrious person would be looked down upon, but elephants are quite hard for the average person to take care of, especially one of a rare breed.
  • Knee – The English language has no word for the back of the knee. The author suggests “eenk.” I couldn’t care less.
  • Pun – He introduces this entry with a pun about a transit strike in Manhattan. When asked how to get around, one man said “diesel.” The asker looked confused, until the man pointed at his feet and said…wait for it…“Diesel get me anywhere.” So bad, it’s…not too bad.

The best thing about this book was that it actually helped me get a question right in HQ Trivia. I had just read the entry on cleave, which talked about words that have two meanings which contradict each other, and cleave was the exact answer to the question. I still lost at question 6 or so, but thanks, Roy Blount Jr.!

This book review was brought to you by words. You can’t read without them.

 

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13

Five Years of Words

A few weeks ago, I was checking my stats on Words With Friends and saw that I started playing on April 11, 2010. So, five years later, here’s where my life has been, along with 26 words I like to use, one for each member of the alphabet.

Games played: around 5,953, give or take a few.

My all time score: 737, 925.

Longest win streak 32 games in a row.

Highest score: 656.

And now, for the words:

AOUDAD

What it is: A type of sheep found North Africa. It comes from French and Berber, specifically the Berber word udad, meaning “ram.”

Used in a sentence: What a lovely sweater you have there; is it aoudad fur?

BAHT

What it is: The currency of Thailand. It comes from Thai, obviously and refers to a weight.

Used in a sentence: Good lord, Enid, what did you buy in that river market in Phuket that cost twelve million baht?

COHO

What it is: A type of salmon. Its origin is unknown.

Used in a sentence: If you take a hooker out to dinner, order coho for the ho and a bottle of rum.

DJIN or DJINN

What it is: A figure in Islamic mythology, and the inspiration for Robin Williams’ character in Aladdin. Language of origin is Arabic.

Used in a sentence: Were I a djin, I’d want my home to be a bottle of gin.

EDH

What it is: A rune, to stand in for the “th” sound in Old English.

Used in a sentence: There is no funny way to use edh in a sentence.

FEIJOA

What it is: A South American shrub, also known as pineapple guava. Named for Joao da Silva Feijo.

Used in a sentence: I wouldn’t go near that feijoa smoothie if I were you.

GRIOT

What it is: A member of an African tribe whose job it is to tell stories. Originated from French and Portuguese.

Used in a sentence: “Tell us another one, griot,” said Tommy, “before our lands are gone.”

HAEN

What it is: Past tense of “have,” in Scottish.

Used in a sentence: “Oh mother Mary,” said Oona, “I haen no more wool to make the tartans.”

INIA

What it is: A type of river dolphin found in South America.

Used in a sentence: You won’t find no inia in West Virginia.

JUGA or JUGAL

What it is: Of or relating to the jugum (another good word), also known as the cheekbone. From Latin.

Used in a sentence: After Peter’s wife came to prison for a conjugal visit and he went to sleep, she and his cellmate Pedro had a con jugal visit of their own. (Oh oh, see what I did there?)

KARST

What it is: An underground limestone chamber. It comes from German.

Used in a sentence: After Brunhilda slipped and fell in the Alps, she was afraid she was cursed to remain in the karst forever.

LWEI

What it is: Another fun money word, this time from Angola.

Used in a sentence: Holy cannoli, Camilla, what did you buy from that arms dealer in Luanda that cost twelve million lwei?

MAQUI

What it is: A shrub grown in Chile and southern California. Comes from Spanish and Araucanian.

Used in a sentence: In Southern California, sometimes they cut the maqui into the shape of a famous mouse.

NAOS or NAOI

What it is: The inner sanctum of a temple in Greece. Greek origin, obviously.

Used in a sentence: “Oh no,” said Aphrodite, “I think I left my blouse in the naos!”

OBIA or OBEAH

What it is: A form of sorcery practiced mostly in the West Indies. The word claims roots from “Gullah, Jamaican English, Guyanan English, Sranan, Twi and Igbo.” Quite a pedigree for such a small word.

Used in a sentence: If you were scared of sorcery, would that mean you had obiaphobia?

PHAGE

What it is: A shortened form of a biology term, like “bacteriophage.”

Used in a sentence: Mitosis is just two cells going through a phage.

QADI

What it is: A judge in a Muslim community. From Arabic.

Used in a sentence: Abdul was hoping to be reassigned to a courthouse in a town near an oasis, so he could be the first qadi in the wadi.

RINGHALS

What it is: A highly venomous snake from Africa, and Afrikaans.

Used in a sentence: The ringhals is so deadly that it is its own plural.

SAUTOIR

What it is: Well, it’s obviously from French, and it’s a ribbon tied around your neck, sometimes with a pendant.

Used in a sentence: Isabelle refused to let her daughter out of the house unless her sautoir was straight.

THERIACA

What it is: A fancy name for treacle.  Latin/Greek origins.

Used in a sentence: Who uses theriaca in cooking anymore?

UREA

What it is: A compound in urine. Either comes from French or Greek.

Used in a sentence: Urea is a great way to end a game, and I resisted the urge to make a pee joke.

VOXEL

What it is: Something to do with medical coding. I don’t know, it’s late.

Used in a sentence: I have never seen a voxel.

WOOMERA

What it is: A notched stick used by Australian Aborigines as a hunting spear. From Dharuk.

Used in a sentence: “Crikey,” said Kyle, “I think I hit a wallaby with my woomera!”

XYST

What it is: A tree-covered promenade or path. From Latin/Greek.

Used in a sentence: Without a good xyst, I think we would cease to exist.

YESHIVA

What it is: An Orthodox Jewish educational institution. Okay, I admit, I put this in for personal reasons but I have used it successfully and even as a plural. It’s Hebrew, if you couldn’t tell.

Used in a sentence: “They’ll never find me here,” giggled Sister Mary-Celine Dion, as she ducked into the yeshiva, thinking to herself that this was the best game of hide-and-seek the convent ever had.

ZAS

What it is: Shortening of “pizzas.”

Used in a sentence: Passover is done so GIVE ME ALL THE ZAS.

That was not as fun as I thought it would be to type but I hope y’all enjoyed it. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the aoudads bite.